On a riding weekend to Rotorua a while back I met a bloke and his son riding the trails off the Southstar Shuttle bus. Norman and Daniel ride bikes and Norm, being a motocross suspension guru pretty much since he left school, decided that it was time he got into the bicycle suspension tuning business and has been tweaking forks and shocks for a wee while now.
Recently, on another Rotorua trip, I bumped into them again. This time Norm and Dan were on new Yeti SB6c trail weapons and were both sporting the new PUSH Industries ElevenSix coil shock that is hand built in a high tech facility in Colorado. After a few "holy mother of god" statements from me and a quick pedal around the shuttle queue I quickly became quite depressed at life with an airshock. But that bloody Norm (top bloke) offered me a shock to review and now he is my second best friend ever (the ElevenSix is my #1).
I had to wait a while. You just don't go and buy a Push Shock from the the local bike shop. I had a to submit a form for a custom build. What bike, rider weight, riding style (smooth/rough, big air/no air, ride like a fairy/like you stole it kind of thing) and what pre-settings you want for the valving in the two separate compression stacks (I went for DH/soft and climbing/firm).
Yes, the shock is built for you and your riding style to mate to your bike. If you want to change your style, or go on a diet, or even change your bike, then the shock needs to go back to Push to get re-pushed. Colorado to be exact. Goddammit, I know we are used to having to wait months to get our shit sorted in this godforsaken back-water we call home. BUT JUST WAIT A MINUTE! You don't have to send your shock anywhere but to Rotorua. Yes, Norm is off to Push HQ in colorado any day now to get a crash course in Push shock building and tuning so he can do any Push servicing you require.
So what about the shock? It looks good. The box is pretty sweet. You get a tuning manual (even though it's pre-tuned just for you). There's a sexy matching stem top cap. There's a tuning guide for a whole lot of other bikes. There's even a tuning graph (I don't understand it at all). But really? a coil shock on a trail bike? And on my 135mm lightweight 29er? And you expect me to hand over $1995 when I have a perfectly good shock (I think) in my bike already?
Tell Norm he's dreaming, I hear you say. Me too. At 880 grams compared to my 300 and something gram airshock is just ridiculous. "It would have to be pretty bloody good to make me want to buy one" I've heard many people mutter, myself included.
So I put it on the Hightower thinking, gee thanks Norm, but I don't think you'll be selling too many of these buddy. Maybe enough to cover the cost of me thrashing this one I hope.
So on the bike it went. First things first...put up an Instagram pic of course. Bam! Straight away I got some messages back saying how amazing the shock rides. Blah blah blah..I don't care how good it rides. $1995? This is not going straight to the pool room.
Anyhoo, off I went for my local loop, a 20 minute easy climb to the top of Whareroa Farm, followed by a 3.5 minute descent down a rocky bermed lumpy DH trail with fast skittery corners and plenty of places to pop some air.
Oh shit! Well it climbs pretty well. In the open setting the pedal bob is more noticeable than an air shock but it's not a deal killer like the coils of old. But after throwing the switch it feels just like the climb feature on any good shock today.
Time to go down....HOLY MOTHER OF GOD I CAN'T QUITE BELIEVE IT. HAVE I GOT A FLAT TYRE? WHY IS EVERYTHING SO SMOOTH? WHO GLUED MY WHEEL TO THE GROUND? WHY ARE ALL THOSE GOOD LOOKING WOMAN STARING AT ME?
Ok, I swapped a word in that last sentence...they were cows, I'm on a farm in Paraparaumu not riding down the main street in Queenstown.
Seriously though. This shock is f**ked up. I mean it really f**ked with my head. Why are we riding air shocks again? A few months back I tried an X2 coil on my Bronson and wasn't impressed enough to warrant the extra weight over my X2 air. I mean that X2 airshock is fricken amazing and at 440 grams still had me in a nervous sweat...I've paid good money to keep my bike lightweight goddammit! Would I really be prepared to fork over 2K and gain almost a pound in weight?
I've thought a lot about this. I've gone back to my 5 other air shocks for comparison and they feel like shit and now I'm depressed again.
Here's another angle. I rode this shock two weeks back at the DME. I went faster than ever before. Arm pump and callous burn were minimal. I hardly felt the rough jagged rocks. Kick back is noticeably reduced, as is my rear wheel leaving the trail. Once I get up to speed the bike just seems to glide. My trusty Pike is now struggling to keep up. I'm pretty much gob smacked and am re-thinking my whole approach to what makes a good trail bike.
Admittedly I have lost some "pop" and playfulness. But no more really than when I fitted the X2 Air.
Hang on a minute though. All bikes can be suffered uphill. And surely a coil will always be a great descending shock. What about the holy grail...just riding along a trail. you know...XC. Well this is where the beauty of two separate damping channels come to play. I fettled about with both units to get 2 different rides. I left the DH setting alone and backed off the Hi and Lo on the climbing damper to give me a good trail setting. Then I tried the reverse.... I kept the climbing damper stock, and firmed up the DH channel to give a good trail setting. Both worked well (I need to work some more in this area Norm, so I'm not quite ready to send your shock back) enough to allow me to have a shock that trail rides really well, then either gives me a DH setting or a climbing setting when I flick the switch. And as it can be done by hand, even when you are riding, then it's not a stretch to change the setting around for each ride depending on what terrain you choose to ride.
If you are a smasher...or a rider who wants the best performance out of your bike at speed on rough trails then the money and weight will honestly be small fry to the benefits of the ElevenSix. If you just like to ride your bike sedately then I'm sure you could improve your ride just by getting some wider rims.
Is it for everybody? I would have to say yes. The money only goes once, the weight is not really noticeable (I'm carrying 500 grams of water right next to it and haven't been bitching about that at all) and the ride is absolutely amazing. And boy does it look soooo good on your bike.
So, whats my plan now? I can't get the shock "stolen". I sure can't keep it forever. I promised my wife that I didn't need/wouldn't spend any more money on my bike. All I can do now is mope around the house, do my chores and hopefully she'll come round and, like a Push ElevenSix, realise that sometimes you just have to spend the money to make someone happy.
So what about Norm and his suspension tuning business Suspension Tech International ltd at www.suspensiontech.com . Norm has just built a new workshop at his residence in lake Okareka, Rotorua and in a week or so his website will be rebuilt slicker than than a Push shock running 2.5 WT oil, so don't go looking at it just yet.
Why would you send your stuff to Norm? Well that's easy. He has been heavily involved in racing suspension, particularly motocross bikes for New Zealands top pro riders and has a long history running events and managing teams and riders, as well as running repair workshops for most of his life. He currently looks after a handful of top MX riders, and is also the suspension agent for the Toyota TRS race car series. Also, Push Industries don't just hand over tuning centre rights to any old numpty that's for sure.
Norm is in the process of a hook-up with Joe Nation, talented NZ enduro rider and super nice bloke, and has played about with his existing rear shock so Joe has the best chance of getting on that coveted podium.
In the meantime Norm can fully service Rockshocks forks shocks and droppers, Fox forks and air-can services (no shock dampers yet for political reasons) and Cane Creek shocks. Best you give him a call for a chat to see what he can do for you. And while you're at it, check out..
021 928 778
07 362 8778 - this number diverts to the mobile at no cost to you.
The ElevenSix isn't always on my bike.